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Book Reviews, Children’s fiction, Teen fiction

BOOK REVIEW: Brave Ollie Possum

by Ethan Nicolle 373 pages / 2019 If you were ever a scaredy-cat, or if you might have one in your family, this could be a fun story to read together... though you might have to do so during the daytime, with all the lights on. It's about nine-year-old Ollie Mackerelli, who is so afraid of things that go bump in the night that he's taken up permanent residence in his parents' bed. This is about how he learned to be brave. But his transformation doesn't happen quickly. Things start off with cowardly Ollie running to his parents' bedroom yet again to crawl under the sheets with them. That's a safe place to be, but it does come with a cost: three people in a double bed leave his dad with bags under his eyes and a scowl on his face. He wants to know when Ollie is going to grow up and stop being afraid of imaginary monsters. Then, mysteriously. Mizz Fuzzlebuzzle, a very strange, very large lady shows up at the Mackerellis' door. She offers to take their son to a "special go-away fun place where children like Ollie can be taken and all his fears will be gobbled up." Who is this lady? Her card says she specializes in "professional anti-scary therapy and comfortology." Desperate, the sleep-deprived parents hand off their son to the expert, hoping she'll be able to help. But here's the twist: Mizz Fuzzlebuzzle isn't actually an expert in anti-scary therapy. She's actually an ogre. And all those bumps in the night? It's her pet monster making them. Ollie was right all along! But being right won't get him out of the clutches of this ogre. And to make matters worse, she wants to eat him. It turns out scared children are an ogre delicacy. But despite being scared, Ollie gathers enough courage to spray the ogre with one of her own magic potions. Sadly, ogres aren't susceptible to magic potions. People are, though, so when the ogre spits the potion right back at him, Ollie is transformed into a creature that passes out in the face of danger: Ollie becomes a possum. The rest of this rollicking tale is about Ollie, with the help of some animal friends, learning what true courage is: that it's not about being unafraid, but about facing our fears and going on anyway. The author of Brave Ollie Possum is one of the folks behind the Christian satire site Babylonbee.com so the book is every bit as funny as you might expect. Another highlight is the artwork. This is a full-size novel, but it could almost be called a picture book, with fantastic, fun illustrations every three pages or so. CAUTION The only caution I'll note is that this book about being brave is, at times, scary. I think it might be the book I am most looking forward to reading to my children, but there is no way I could read this as their bed-time story, or even in the middle of the day. I'm going to have to wait a bit, probably until they are all at least nine. CONCLUSION But for kids over ten and over, particularly boys, this will be so much fun. And for certain 9-year-old kids who are scared of what goes bump in the night, this could be a good day-time read with mom and dad to help a little one learn what being brave is all about.

Human Rights, Pro-life - Abortion

Abortion supporters don't believe in equality

There are two ways society views human worth. Which leads to a better society?

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In his now famous TedTalk, author Simon Sinek unlocks the secret to how the most powerful leaders shape their messages. They start with “Why?"  "Your Why", says Simon, “is the purpose, cause, or belief that inspires you to do What you do." Simon illustrates with great clarity how powerful it is when leaders of any organization or movement start their message with an explanation of their purpose, their beliefs. I thought about this yesterday as I stood on the side of Main St. in Grimsby quietly participating in the Life Chain demonstration. I wondered how many of the people driving by really understood why we were there - our purpose, our belief. I wondered too if my fellow demonstrators really understood how people with opposite views on the issue of abortion can arrive hold the position they do. You can’t really take seriously the folks who drive by yelling at you and giving your kids the finger. But putting that aside for the moment, let’s be honest; demonstrations are not the most effective format for respectful and rigorous debate. They tend to polarize groups into opposing camps and do little to create empathy between people who hold different views. We’re content to consider each other crazy. However, at one point in yesterday’s hour-long demonstration a passing motorist rolled down her window and yelled to demonstrators “It’s my body, It’s my choice!” And I thought; There it is! Her “Why.” Her belief. And as horrifying as the consequences of that belief are, it struck me how perfectly logical it was that this woman might also support the idea that she has a right to end the life of another human being. There’s nothing wrong with her logic. She’s not crazy per se. She just doesn’t believe that the human growing inside her is...well, human. And that is precisely where we differ. Two views I believe that human life starts at conception. And that belief changes everything. I’m not crazy either. Far from it. Feminist author and pro-choice advocate Mary Elizabeth Williams (also a staff writer for Salon) would agree with me. In an article that Mary wrote titled “So what if abortion ends life?” she states the following:  "I know that throughout my own pregnancies, I never wavered for a moment in the belief that I was carrying a human life inside of me. I believe that’s what a fetus is: a human life.” She goes further:

"When we on the pro-choice side get cagey around the life question, it makes us illogically contradictory....When we try to act like a pregnancy doesn’t involve human life, we wind up drawing stupid semantic lines in the sand.”

I totally agree. Which makes Mary’s following statement so confusing. She says "And that doesn’t make me one iota less solidly pro-choice.” How can someone believing that the fetus inside them is human still claim the right to kill it? That does sound crazy to me. 1) All life is not equal But Mary explains...

"Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always."

And there it is: Mary's “Why." Her belief. Mary believes that some humans are more important than others. She’s forced herself to believe that or else her pro-choice position would be, to use her own words, "illogically contradictory.” Mary also thinks she should be the one to decide whose lives, in particular, are more important and whose aren’t. And this why I (and many others) stand in silent demonstration at the corner of Main St. and Christie St. each year. 2) All are equal because all are made in God's image I believe that I am not my own (Nope. Not my body. Not my choice) ie: I do not belong to myself. Rather, I believe that in both life and in death I belong to my faithful saviour Jesus Christ. I belong to and submit to the one (and only) creator-God who made me and who alone determines the purpose of my life. Therefore I personally am not the ultimate authority on what I can or cannot do with my life or the life of others. I believe that all lives including the lives of those who stand in direct opposition to what I believe are equally sacred and worthy of protection. I believe that the protection of life is everyone’s responsibility and so also my responsibility. My purpose here on earth is to love God, love my fellow human beings and to serve them by putting their life and well-being ahead of my own. I and those who believe as I do are not fighting for self-importance or survival. We're fighting to outdo one another in kindness. I realize that we can’t make you believe what we believe. But surely you can see that we’re not crazy either. Which kind of society do you want? And to those of you who don’t quite know what you believe consider this: What kind of society do you wish to experience? What kind of society do you wish to build for your children? What kind of leaders will you choose to support and follow? Will you follow those who believe that some lives are more important than others (who believe that their lives are more important than yours perhaps)? Or will you choose to follow those who believe all lives are of equal value, and who believe that leaders should put others ahead of themselves? Simon "Start-with-why" Sinek has another book out which may help you decide. It’s called Leaders Eat Last. This choice is indeed yours. I’m praying that you’ll choose wisely.

This article was first published in October 2016. Jason Bouwman is a graphic designer and author of the utterly unique book "Still Thinking" which we review right here.

Pro-life - Abortion, Pro-life - Adoption

Should all adoption records be unsealed? A pro-life perspective

Some years back the Costco Connection asked its readers: "Should it be mandatory to give adult adoptees full access to their birth records if they want it?" Arguing the “Yes” side, April Dinwoodie said it came down to the best interests of the child. While noting that in the US 95% of recent adoptions are already voluntarily open, she insists all should be.

"…adopted persons…are left without potentially lifesaving family medical history…Most importantly, we are denying this class of people a right that every other human being currently enjoys: the right to know the truth of their origins."

The next month the results were in and an overwhelming 92% of responding readers agreed with Dinwoodie. But there is one important point Dinwoodie never mentioned: in our day and age parents with an unwanted child don’t have to choose adoption – they can also choose abortion. So the question could also be reframed from their perspective: "Should birth parents who may be debating between giving up their child for adoption or killing him via abortion be denied the option of an anonymous adoption?" That puts a different spin on "the best interests of the child," doesn't it? It's no given that a unwanted child will be given up for adoption. If we want to give these unwanted children their very best chance at being carried to term, and delivered, then we need to do everything we can to make adoption look as attractive to the parents as possible. Then we'll want to take away anything that might make these parents hesitate, or consider their other "option." If that means giving parents involved in a crisis pregnancy the option of anonymity, wouldn't we want to do that? Better a living child without roots, than an aborted one with the "right to know the truth of their origins."

A version of this article first appeared in the February 2016 issue of Reformed Perspective.

Drama, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

John Hus: A journey of no return

Docudrama 2015 /55 minutes Rating: 7/10 This docudrama covers the last months of Reformer Jan Hus's (1369-1415) life when he was imprisoned and awaiting trial on charges of heresy. His "errors" were of the sort that Luther would preach 100 years later: Hus had a problem with indulgences, and with the corrupt clergy, and he wanted the Bible translated into the Czech language. And, like Luther, he would not back down. It's important to understand that the film is a fictional account based on historical facts. The biggest embellishment is the character Robert Tallio, who is portrayed as an inquisitor – a torturer – who has been brought by his cleric brother to report on Hus. But instead of getting what he wants from Hus, he gets what he needs – Tallio hears the Gospel and becomes increasingly troubled by it. Tallio isn't a complete embellishment – he is based on a sympathetic jailer named Robert that we read about in Hus's letters. Hus even wrote a tract on marriage for him, so their relationship seemed to be a close one. But other than his name, occupation, and his apparent need for advice on marriage, we don't know anything else about this Robert. But it is through this bit of fiction that we get to see a more human face to Hus. We don't just see his courage, but also his compassion, even for his jailer. CAUTIONS The only content caution I can think of would be in regards to Tallio and his love interest, who begins the story as a prostitute. We don't see anything sexual or revealing – I mention it only to alert parents that her occupation is discussed. And, as mentioned it is important to remember that this blending of fiction with fact can't be relied on to give more than an impression of the man. If you want more than a brief, albeit intriguing, overview of the man, it'd be best to turn to a good book about him. CONCLUSION So who would like this? If you have any interest in Church history, this will be an enjoyable hour's viewing. The production values are lavish, the acting solid, and the dubbing from the original Czech, decently done. This looks good! However, if you have no interest in Church history, well, this dialogue-driven movie likely won't be exciting enough to change your mind. That said, why not give it a try? You can watch it for free below.

Another, older, production, 1977's "John Hus," is widely available, but while just as educational, it is far less professional.

Jon Dykstra also blogs on movies at ReelConservative.com.

Assorted

The “Force” behind bad statistics

Statistics don’t always mean what they seem to mean. For example, according to figures released by Statistics Canada some years back, there are 20,000 Jedi in Canada. In addition, there are 53,000 in New Zealand, 70,000 in Australia, and a startling 390,000 in the United Kingdom!

If you’re not a fan of Star Wars, you might not have heard of the Jedi. In this series of science fiction films – eight so far – Jedi “knights” wield the good power of the “Force” to fight against those who would seek to destroy the universe and enslave it to evil. It’s a weird sort of Eastern mystical “Force” where both good and evil originate in the same source.

By now you’ve probably spotted the problem with the Statistics Canada census. 20,000 Canadians claim to believe in a religion – “Jediism” – that exists only in movies. How can that make any sense?

Earnest idiots

If you’re Derek Evans, director of the United Church-affiliated Naramatha Centre in B.C., you see calling yourself a Jedi as “part of a journey…discovering the powers that rest within,” and how to use those powers to take care of the ones you love.1 Derek Evans is probably a bit too serious.

Chris Brennan had a different take on the whole thing. As president of the Australian Star Wars Appreciation Society, he didn’t think the census details were quite accurate. He estimated that of the 70,000 Aussies who claimed to be Jedi, no more than 5,000 or so were “true hard-core people that would believe the Jedi religion carte blanche.”2 Chris Brennan didn’t quite get it either.

Messing with the survey

But for most of the thousands of “Jedis” there was a much simpler explanation – these people didn’t take the census seriously. Prior to the Canadian census, a Denis Dion posted a message on the Canadian Ski Patrol message board urging people to list their religion on the upcoming census as Jedi. He claimed that if 10,000 Canadians were to do this, then Jedi would become a “fully recognized and legal religion.” This message, circulated by Dion and others, obviously made the rounds, and 20,000 people joined in on the stunt.

What was the motivation? If you can believe the folks at Wikipedia, somebody in New Zealand thought that asking someone’s religion was a nosy question that didn’t deserve an honest answer. As well, some people just don’t really have a religion that they believe in strongly so they don’t know what religion to check off on their census forms.

Lightsaber sales still down

So what’s the moral of the story? With more than 500,000 people worldwide claiming to be Jedi, what can we learn from this bizarre tale?

Simply this: sometimes if a statistic seems unbelievable, it probably is.

We need to be skeptical when we’re told the results of surveys. For a survey to be accurate, it needs to be taken seriously, and it needs to be something that people are willing to answer. When answering surveys, people don’t like to appear foolish so they may offer opinions even when they don’t know anything about what’s being asked. And they are often unwilling to give up personal information yet unwilling to say this. In four different countries people were either unwilling to tell the statistics offices their real religion because it was too personal, or just weren’t taking the question seriously.

When we’re outnumbered, and surveys tell us that very few people believe a fetus is “human,” or that most people support euthanasia, we should take it with a grain of salt. Those who oppose abortion are unlikely to tell pollsters their true opinions because their answers are politically incorrect and seen as foolish, and those answering the surveys don’t want to seem foolish. They’re often unwilling to give an honest answer.

So when you’re faced with impossible statistics, with insurmountable odds, maybe the best thing to do is to simply laugh. That’s what the BBC did when it reported on the 390,000 Jedi supposedly living in the United Kingdom. You see, if there really are that many Jedi in the U.K. it’s only a matter of time until sales of lightsabers start to sky rocket3. And when we’re faced with impossible odds and improbable statistics, we can laugh boldly, because we have a power greater than statistics and far stronger than the Force to lend us aid.

Endnotes

1 Globe and Mail, May 14, 2003
2 The New Zealand Herald “Jedi order lures 53,000 disciples” www.nzherald.co.nz, August 8, 2002
3 “Census returns of the Jedi,” 13 February 2003, news.bbc.co.uk


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